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A New Publication World?

First, a confession. I spent much of my career as a journal editor, and spend time now as a journal editor (Chiropractic Journal of Australia). I mention this because I want to discuss issues around journal publication. In the evidence-based world, journal articles are still seen as the primary means of obtaining important information to be used for help in treating patients. It is almost hegemonic, in that sense. But the question I want to as is, does it always have to be that way?

Let me first note a reality. For many journals, to obtain the information they publish you need to subscribe. You have to pay. And this alone has created a movement toward what is called open-access publication, which uses a different model where the author pays to have his or her work published. In some cases, this means adding a small amount to a large grant, but for a private practitioner it can be a disincentive- costs can range above $1000. And of course it has also led to the world of what have been called “predatory journals.” These are journals that will for a fee publish your work, no matter its quality. They look real, are entirely online, and are typically of deplorable quality.

If you work at a chiropractic college, you can access information for free (to you) through a library site license. That site license is staggeringly expensive and rising all the time.

This brings me to a provocative article by Richard Smith. Dr. Smith was editor for many years for the important medical journal British Medical Journal, or BMJ. His article asks what a post-journal world will look like (http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2016/06/15/richard-smith-what-will-the-post-journal-world-look-like/). He postulates the following:

  • Project proposals will be published in advance on a website for public comment.
  • Each proposal will contain a systematic review.
  • Changes in the protocol will be explained and delineated.
  • Raw data will be placed online.
  • The research will be registered.
  • The methods will be declared and any deviation will be identified.
  • Typical peer review will not occur; instead, it will occur by the community after this material is placed online.

There is more to his article, but this is enough to give one thought- how could we transform the journal publication process to better address getting information out to all who need it and to all whom might comment on it?

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